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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts 2019 (91st Academy Awards) review

Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts 2019 green light A Night at the Garden

MaryAnn’s quick take…

My pick: Marshall Curry’s “A Night at the Garden,” presenting footage from a 1939 “pro-America” rally in New York City, a chilling reminder of the unpleasant cycles of American history.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

This year’s Oscar-nominated documentary shorts span an array of social-justice matters, sometimes finding unexpected good vibes among difficult subjects. The nominees:

• “End Game” [IMDb|official site], by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, introduces us to several terminally ill patients trying to chart a course through their final days; it’s surprisingly optimistic and positive about death and dying. [watch at Netflix (global)]

• “Period. End of Sentence.” [IMDb|official site], by Rayka Zehtabchi, is an upbeat portrait of women tackling taboos about menstruation in India with their own community-based businesses making and selling sanitary pads. (This is the true story of women who were inspired by the man fictionalized in last year’s unlikely Bollywood musical comedy Pad Man.) [watch at Netflix (global)]

• “Black Sheep” [IMDb|official site], by Ed Perkins, is much grimmer; this is a simple, startling story told straight to the camera about a young black man coming to terms with how he befriended racists in order to survive a tough adolescence in a white town. [watch at Amazon US|Amazon UK|The Guardian (global)]

• “Lifeboat” [IMDb|official site], by Skye Fitzgerald, is similarly difficult to watch as it follows an organization that patrols the Mediterranean to rescue migrants daring the crossing to Europe. [watch at The New Yorker (US only)]

And this year’s likely winner:

• “A Night at the Garden” [IMDb|official site], by Marshall Curry, presents footage from a 1939 “pro-America” rally in New York City, complete with thousands of supposedly patriotic Americans performing Nazi salutes. It’s the briefest of the nominees by far, at only seven minutes, and perhaps the most important, a chilling reminder of the unpleasant cycles of American history. [watch at PBS (US only) and at official site (global)]

see also:
Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts 2019 (91st Academy Awards) review
Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts 2019 (91st Academy Awards) review

Click here for my ranking of this and 2019’s other releases.

green light 5 stars

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Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts 2019 (91st Academy Awards) (2019) | directed by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Rayka Zehtabchi, Ed Perkins, Skye Fitzgerald, Marshall Curry
US/Can release: Feb 08 2019
UK/Ire release: direct to VOD

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: not rated

viewed at home on PR-supplied physical media or screening link

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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